Flags Are A Rarity for Brooke Coach Tom Bruney

WELLSBURG – Brooke coach Tom Bruney swears he’s not a bad guy, no matter what a group of eastern panhandle high school football officials may think of him.

”Here’s the thing that puts the dot on the I,” he said Monday. ”I’ve only been flagged one time in my entire coaching career, and never as a head coach. I was an assistant coach in 1991. I just don’t get that wrapped up in it.”

Anyone who saw the Morgantown game has to believe that. That’s when a long run by quarterback Cotey Wallace was nullified by an official’s quick whistle. The ref was confused as to who had the ball and stopped a play that would have otherwise been a 64-yard run to the Mohigans’ 8.

”Those were quality officials,” Bruney said. ”He immediately owned up to his mistake, and that made it OK. Even our kids didn’t have a problem with it.”

That was then; this is now.

Bruney, of course, was ejected with 30 seconds remaining in the first half of last week’s come-from-behind victory against Musselman after he was hit with back-to-back personal fouls.

Looking back, he’s not proud of his actions that led to his second personal foul – he threw his headset in frustration – but, then again, he’s still trying to figure out how simply calling a timeout constituted the first one. For that reason, he never thought he’d get thrown out because he didn’t believe the first one was really all that personal.

Here’s the story. The one-step-forward, two-steps-back Bruins had moved the ball at a decent pace during the first half, but had not scored mostly because of red-zone turnovers.

Inside a half a minute to go in the half, Bruney asked for a timeout, something that is very normal for coaches to do in a hurry-up situation, almost so normal officials should be ready for it. Heck, grandparents should be ready for it. After a good 10-15 seconds of real time passed, Bruney still could not get anyone’s attention – couldn’t even get a cursory glance – and by that time, he was out on the field. When they finally saw him out there, they were not interested in what he wanted. They were reaching for yellow hankies.

”We’re trying to appeal this because I deserved the flag for throwing the headset,” he said. ”I take full responsibility for going into Gene Hackman ‘Hoosier’ mode. But I don’t deserve the flag for calling a timeout.”

Assuming that appeal doesn’t work – and there’s not a strong history that suggests it will – Bruney will not be coaching the Bruins this week during their playoff opener against Princeton, per SSAC rules that require a mandatory one-game follow-up suspension.

In the meantime, it would be hard to convince Bruney those officials wanted the top-rated Bruins to win a game against an unranked, and under-.500 foe last Friday night.

”It was the type of game we needed,” he said. ”We needed to get belted and get up off the mat. But it’s a shame a high school game for kids can get out of hand because of adults.”

Obviously, Bruney didn’t see Wallace, Kyle Sims (13 tackles and a sack), Tripper Naragon (10 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss), Shane Graham (nine tackles) and Mike Kosevic (nine tackles) lead the comeback. He was escorted off the field prior to halftime.

But he’s seen the second half via the lens of Deb and Scooter Rowing, Brooke’s longtime video team.

”We have a whole video tape full of things that appear to be purposely done (by the officials),” Bruney said. ”You hate to think like that because you’re calling into question a man’s integrity.”

All of this has given Bruney an idea.

”They already do this in college and in the pros,” he began. ”One of these days, they’re going to arm coaches with flags. When an official is out of control, then we should be able to throw flags on them.

”We’ve had nine very good high school crews the season. We’ve had quality men working our games up until that last trip.”

At the end of the day, none of this wound up hurting Brooke’s chance at perfection. And the Bruins did get an important pass interference call late in the game on what proved to be the winning drive.

”The most important part about it, the thing I’m most proud of,” Bruney said, ”was the chips were lined up against us, adversity hit, and our kids found a way to win the game.

”Guess what? We’re 10 and 0. Nothing else matters right now. In about 5 minutes, then 10 and 0 doesn’t matter. It’s a new season. Our next goal is to be 1 and 0 this week.”

Even in the face of a bad experience, the people of Brooke County have never tired of hearing that.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net